Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #193 by Drew Barth
October is here. The spook season has again commenced. Sometimes it helps to go back to one of the progenitors of American hauntings: Sleepy Hollow. The original story is over two hundred years old. Adaptations of the tale are almost a Halloween tradition at this point. From the animated versions to the Tim Burton film, Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horsemen remain perennial. This tradition continues on with the graphic novel Hollow by Shannon Watters, Branden Boyer-White, Berenice Nelle, Kaitlyn Musto, Kieran Quigley, Gonçalo Lopes, and Jim Campbell.
A recent transplant to Sleepy Hollow, Izzy Crane doesn’t believe in ghosts or the paranormal. More concerned with finding a good spot to research, Izzy only wants to get through high school with a minimal amount of Headless Horsemen encounters despite the town branding the figure as a mascot on everything from pizza shops to ambulances.
Of course, the legend is real. It has to be in a town like this. But the legend itself is different. Less a cursed haunting hanging over the town, the Headless Horsemen is a protector here—a lone soldier protecting the Van Tassel family from certain death by mysterious hands. But those mysterious hands have only grown more powerful over the centuries as they find new ways to try to end the Van Tassel bloodline.
More than anything, Hollow is fun. There is a more serious side to the story that centers on keeping the only daughter of the Van Tassel family, Vicky, alive, but this title maintains some of the hallmark hijinks of a high school mystery. There’s pranks, town festivals, elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque schemes, and teenage drama. It’s the perfect distillation of a classic story in a modern context with the familiar trappings of both that keeps it feeling fresh.
This story could really only work as a graphic narrative with many of its visuals skirting the line between horror and whimsy in a way that’s much more difficult to capture in a traditional story. The Headless Horseman is simultaneously intimidating in our first shots of him, but his pumpkin head takes on a much more animated presence once Izzy first confronts him on a bike ride home. Between that and the continual costume changes as character tones for Vicky Van Tassel, the art here elevates the story into something truly captivating.
Watters, Boyer-White, Nelle, Musto, Quigley, Lopes, and Campbell have crafted a Halloween story that already feels like a classic in its own right. From the playful tone to the modern sensibilities to the re-framing of the ghost story, Hollow offers the fun of Halloween with that slight creepiness that recalls walking down the aisle in a Spirit Halloween store.
Get excited. Get spooky.
Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.
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